CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
Some library books, for a variety of reasons, become "non-circulating." They no longer move in a circular path (according to the Latin root of circulate). And they are stamped to this effect, with words like "room use only," "may not be checked out," and "under no circumstances to be taken from the building." It's a precious status, indicative of value, rarity, and refererence-worthiness. Yet there's a tinge of sadness, too — a hint of decrepitude and dormancy. We asked a book-whisperer and learned that books do wish to circulate, to be worldly, to mingle, to be at large. And so, as our eccentric research takes us through the digital collections of libraries around the world, we keep a special eye out for non-circulating books. We check their endpapers for the scarlet lettering of "library use only." Then, through a painstaking process involving collaged elements from non-circulating volumes of old magazines, we add some talisman-like flowing imagery to break the stagnation. Swirling lines, spinning figures, twirls and loops and spirals — we add dynamism to counteract the inertia and invite the moribund book to spin off (if only in its dreams, or as a greeting card). We thank the industrious archivists who scan rare books for a wider readership to discover and appreciate.
On the topic of scanned books, see also The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine, our repository of ghostly images conjured by frontispieces protected by translucent tissue paper and then scanned by Google Books. The figure in the plate beneath the tissue—"beyond the veil,” as it were—emerges as from a foggy otherworld. The frontispieces were never meant to be seen this way. Their wraithlike manifestations have been artificially "fixed" in time by the scanning process. In essence, timeless phantasms of dead writers have been captured and bound into a new age. And so we call this phenomenon "unforeseen art," as it constitutes an aesthetic expression without original intent. Just as artists often credit their inspiration to a Muse, the accidental art herein is in the domain of real ghosts; every author here has departed to the Other Side. We call it "necromancy by proxy," as the scanning machine serves as our "spirit medium" or shaman.